Thursday, April 16, 2015

Carpe Diem #708, Wisdom

While Kristjaan takes the rest of the warrior, I shall vainly strive for something close to his flow and humanity, though am already confident in my failing…so bear with me, from my forest, and continue to flower! 

The prompt today is Wisdom. For those of us who live in the Western world, wisdom is seen as elitist, found in the works of Greek scholars or the Bible, and at a pinch some inaccessible classical literature. The past is seen as something better glossed over, to be improved on, riddled with mistakes that we eliminate through technology. This is not the case with societies such as India and China, where the past is very much alive and constantly present, seen in India in customs and tradition, with the Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata appearing at least 1,000 years before the birth of Christ now still very much part of children’s culture in the playground and on television.

Wisdom is the topic of the pertinent question Arjuna asks Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita:

Arjuna: Tell me of the man who lives in wisdom, Ever aware of the Self, O Krishna; How does he talk, how sit, how move about? 
Sri Krishna: He lives in wisdom Who sees himself in all and all in him …
…He lives free from lust and fear and anger Fettered no more by selfish attachments, He is not elated by good fortune Nor depressed by bad. Such is the seer...
…The disunited mind is far from wise; How can it meditate? How be at peace? When you know no peace, how can you know joy? 

Wisdom, as a haiku prompt, can be a controversial one, as it can push towards grandiose statement, leaning towards telling, rather than showing. Another contentious issue is a potential conflict with the prompt and the notion of Wabi in a haiku — symbolising aesthetic simplicity without ego, intellect, expectations or judgement, which has more than a few echoes of Krishna’s instruction in the Bhagavad Gita. 

However, there is a world of difference between intellect and wisdom: intellect is personal, and wisdom is universal. In the discussion before the battle, Krishna also stresses action for action’s sake without reward to Arjun. Action first, then thought, is also a Confucian dictum; the action(s) of nature, without ‘instruction’

The wisdom of Confucius, who lived around 500 years before Christ, defines Chinese thought. It is not feasible to imagine he had no influence on Basho. Confucius espoused the well-known “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself,” perhaps eminently suited to haiku-writing!

Surely, Basho must have thought about some the following wisdom sayings by Confucius as he strolled down the narrow road to the great north, that will serve as inspiration, I hope, for your haiku:

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Life is really simple, but men insist on making it complicated.

Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men.

When nature exceeds culture, we have the rustic. When culture exceeds nature then we have the pedant.

I found a haiku by Scottish writer George Bruce, on Widom, that I quite like:

Books — thousands — on shelves — 
Wisdom of ages.
Folly if not in me

Followed by the closest I can get to Wisdom at this time:

never forget
that the camel never forgets
and all will be well

Good luck with your haiku on Wisdom! In time-honoured fashion the link is open at 7.00 pm.


  1. Thanks, Hamish for giving our host a few days rest!

  2. So much to think about here, Hamish! Thank you for clarifying 'intellect' vs. 'wisdom' - and for all the great illustrations.

    AND -- it's so good to see you here as a host - so that Chevrefeuille can rest! Thank you! :)

  3. Great post Hamish ... I really enjoyed it! :-)


  4. Great post, and I am grateful to be awake enough to read it and take it in.

    "....and wisdom is universal..."

    That statement ties in with what I think of as wisdom: common sense.
    I cannot see wisdom as privileged or elite, but as the opposite to "mere information".

    Love your haiku: good advice too, if one doesn't want to be spit upon :-)

  5. I had to make a reappearance.. I will get around reading.